Just because your baby can sign a want or need does not mean that he should always get it. This isn’t to say that an early signing attempt shouldn’t be rewarded, because it should, it just means that the harsh reality of life is that at some point, we all get our requests turned down. Saying “no” as your baby is just coming into the stage when they are most demanding, is a great way to prepare them for, life in general, and also for toddlerhood. If you think it’s fit to deny a baby’s request for whatever reason, don’t feel bad. Saying NO to a sign is a logical and natural progression which all babies need to face as they mature.
When your baby signs something you can’t or won’t do, it’s not necessary to ignore the sign, in fact, signs should always be acknowledged. For example, you might say, “I see you want to EAT, but we’re reading a BOOK now and we’ll EAT later.” We often have grandparents say “Oh, he’s asking for MORE CRACKER” when it’s clearly very close to dinner. A good grandparent (wink, wink) will ask Mom or Dad what to do. The solution once again is quite simple. We say, “Yes BABY, I know you want a CRACKER, but it’s very close to dinner time, so we’re not going to have one right now.” You’d be surprised by how well babies can deal with this type of let down when they’ve grown accustomed to the ritual. Whatever you do, just remain consistent and your baby will adapt just fine. It’s really a baby’s job to test and push limits and it’s up to adults to set these for them.
Above: To make the ASL sign for CRACKER, the fist is brought up and over to the opposite shoulder where it rests, followed by the other hand forms a fist and is struck against the elbow several times.
If, for any reason, your baby asks, you say no, and then later give in, then you are setting yourself up for a battle. What you have just taught your baby is that when you say “no”, you really mean “maybe” and that the more they bug you, the more likely you are to cave into their request. There’s really nothing more to this than that, so it’s up to you to set up how the communication pattern between you and your baby will be conducted moving forward.